Posts tagged repair

How to open an HP Pavilion case!

This is a really weird design, and I hope my info helps someone. One of my girlfriend’s friends brought me her old computer that used to run Windows 2000, and what it needed seemed to be pretty straightforward… back up the data on the drive and reinstall windows. I figured I could get it done relatively quickly. It turned out, however, to be quite frustrating.

The old HP Pavilion.

The old HP Pavilion.

Side Case Off...

Side Case Off...

Official HP Diagram!

Official HP Diagram!

So, I got the side of the case off, and couldn’t figure out how to get to the other side of the drive bays! I took the other side of the case off as well to no avail. After some hunting and pecking, a touch of swearing, and some perseverance, I came across a *single* thread buried deep in some google results. That thread lead me to this article on hp’s website, which easily explained how to get the drive bays out.

The Pesky Tab!

The Pesky Tab!

And The Drive's Out!

And The Drive's Out!

The Harddrive Is Huge!

The Harddrive Is Huge!

The part that wasn’t apparently clear to me (although I found that pesky tab right away) is that the whole set of drive bays slides out forward. FACEPALM! A quick glance at the instructions made the process inherently evident… and simple. So, to clarify, you undo the gold screw on top of the tab and the second screw on the harddrive cage, push outwards on the tab, and slide all of the drives out together as one piece. Don’t pull them out all the way yet, as all of the drives will still be attached unless you have unattached them… obviously. Boy, do I need a copy editor.

Anyways, this threw me off as it’s not a normal case design. But hey, how often do you see 5.25″ PATA drives? THEY’RE HUGE!
Mic-B

BIOS Hotswap with LT Hartly!

Welcome back to the site. Today we’ve got an excellent little fix for you… a BIOS hotswap! A friend of mine, LT namely, had a BIOS flash go awry and we decided it would be a fun project for the site. Now, we found out later that a new BIOS chip cost us less than the tool we bought, but that’s beside the point. We did this for the fact that we could!

Now, be warned that putting metal objects into a computer that is currently running is extremely dangerous, and YOU SHOULD NOT ATTEMPT THIS. You have been warned. Aside from tempting death, the process itself is pretty simple.

It's LT!

It's LT!

The culprit BIOS.

The culprit BIOS.

The brokeded mobo!

The brokeded mobo!

The messed up board is an nForce 5 chipset. The board we used to re-flash the BIOS is an nForce 2. They have the same socket, so they work great. Make sure you get the right flashing program and firmwares or you’ll get in pretty deep before you have to start all over again.

Copy over all the necessary files to a *bootable* floppy (we will be using DOS after all) and start the nForce 2 board up with it’s stock BIOS. If you don’t know how to create a bootable floppy you can click here for a rather useful tutorial. After the computer has booted from the floppy (this *may* take BIOS settings on some computers, but if your doing this you know how to change settings in a BIOS) run whatever program it is that you’ve downloaded. Most will be distributed WITH instructions; run the help flag with your program to find it’s manual.

Both BIOS chips.

Both BIOS chips.

Get them chips out!

Get them chips out!

Begin Ze Transfer!

Begin Ze Transfer!

Once the system has booted from your floppy and you know what commands to run for your system, it’s time to physically swap the chips. We attempted this at first with a multi-tool, and pulled out about an inch from the board. Something didn’t smell right… figuratively speaking, of course. We looked around the room for something non-conductive and stumbled across some sewing thread. We tried tying it around the stock chip before we put it in initially, but the thread easily broke. These chips are not as easy to get out of their sockets as one might think.

Ze cheeps! Ze ar tiny!

Ze cheeps! Ze ar tiny!

Yeah, we tried string.

Yeah, we tried string.

The new tool!

The new tool!

So… long story short, we ordered a tool from eBay (around $7 i think) and had to wait a week. Once the new BIOS is in, run the software and flash the broken junk back to life. After this, the process is complete and you can shut down the computer. Simply take the fixed BIOS and pop it back into it’s original board. There are no worries here as the boards should be off. Your new/old board should be ready to go!

Of course, we could have easily just ordered a new BIOS chip for only $5 and not had to do this whole process, but why not? We’re nerds, man!

Happy Hacking.
Mic-B

iOS4 Downgrade

Those dicks locked us out!

Those dicks locked us out!

So, a friend of mine… “Steve” we’ll call him, uses an iPhone 3G as an iPod touch. Never had a problem with it. Basically, the advantage of this is that he has access to a camera. Nonetheless, before iOS4, there was no activation requirement on these units that would prevent you from using the device without a SIM. Such is no more. After upgrading to iOS4, he was locked out of his phone; and without AT&T here in Montana, he was pretty screwed. I gladly took his phone home as a project and jailbroke it back to 3.1.3 for him again.

So, originally I found this great writeup on how to do this process, but of course there were a few things I didn’t feel were clarified very well, although it got me from point A to B. They cover a few different methods of this; but chances are that if your an iPhone developer and pay for the xcode dev license, you probably know about the firmware settings through it — and most of the population doesn’t have access to that, so I won’t even waste my breath. Instead, here’s how the average joe can get the job done… if they have a mac. There are far too many windows-only tutorials on these things.

Anyhow, you need to gather a few things to begin:

Once you’ve downloaded all of this stuff, (it’ll take a few minutes) install libusb and unpack iRecovery. After this, plug in your iPhone. Open iTunes and hold down the “alt/option” key and click restore. When the box pops up (if you did this correctly… tested and working in iTunes 9.2.x) navigate to where you saved your firmware and select it. Upon restoring, iTunes should error out with a 1015.

1015 Error. Brought to us via tipb.com

1015 Error. Brought to us via tipb.com

Now it’s time to run iRecovery. If you get the “faster” version, it may not be compatible with Snow Leopard… so be warned; you may have to do some command-line stuff… which I find fun, but you may not. Some people get mixed results here. Namely, some phones are fully restored after this and require no additional work. In my case, however, the phone became stuck in an “endless DFU mode”. It was time to resort to some dirty work.

At this point, if you are in my boat, you should download and run blackra1n. Written by a badass named “George Hotz”, blackra1n will solve all of your woes. Open up the program, hit the single button that says “make it rain”, and let it run it’s course. In my case, it solved the endless DFU and came prepackaged with a blackra1n app that allowed me to instantly install Cydia, Icy or Rock My Phone. (These are homebrew repositories, FTWDK) Awesome installer, and a relatively easy process.

If you or anyone you know needs some help with this, shoot me a comment or an e-mail. Always here to help!

Happy Hacking!
Mic-B

Sony PS3 Reflow: Frequently Asked Questions

The PS3 YLoD. Blast!

The PS3 YLoD!

Since I posted my PS3 YLoD DIY Reflow article, there has been an onslaught of messages to my inbox from people concerning it, and the many facets of what that entails… so I decided to compile the most-asked here and to maybe give some more quick answers to people desperate for information.

Please, please… I urge you to take any of my advice with a grain of salt, and always get a second opinion. Also don’t forget to actually contact Sony and see if you are still under warranty before attempting a reflow like this. You will void your warranty and may ruin some perfectly good hardware in the process. Anywho, on to the questions…

My PS3 constantly has strange dots all across the screen. As I go through the menu the screen freezes up but I can still hear sound. Would a reflow help?
Yes, this is classic behavior of a GPU’s solder connections going bad. A reflow at this stage may yield better results considering that the solder from the GPU has not completely separated yet.

If I pay for shipping will you fix it for me?
I’m sorry to say that you’ll have to pay for a bit more than that. In order to keep demand down, I have begun charging $80 before shipping and possibly parts for a PS3 reflow. All I can guarantee is that it will work when you receive it — There are no guarantees on time as it seems that each model number takes to the reflow differently… (small hardware revisions are the culprit IMHO) so to be blunt, I think you should learn to do it yourself… and then do it for your friends for a bit of dough!

I’ve tried the reflow a few times now, and it worked the first time. Since then the PS3 has died and I think I’m doing something wrong. Any suggestions?
My suggestion for you would be to get an infrared non-contact thermometer (home depot, 30 bucks) and use that to tell how hot your getting the board during your reflow. Solder melts at about 410-420 fahrenheit, and you’d be surprised how cold the board is during most reflows. Once I got mine, it was quite eye-opening.

I’m overseas and my PS3 broke, who do I contact?
Just contact Sony USA by phone. You will end up paying $169.99, which is an outside of the US cost. You are paying for international shipping rates three ways + labor charges + cost of the item that needs to be repaired. It’s a bit ridiculous, but they will do it. Also, I’m not sure on international calls to 800 numbers, but I wouldn’t think that you’d be charged.

I don’t think I’m applying the Arctic Silver 5 correctly. Have some tips?
Well, the thing to keep in mind here is that less is more. Use a small dab about the size of an uncooked grain of rice, and spread thinly and evenly with a card. It’s not really rocket science.

I don’t have an infrared no-contact thermometer, is there any other way to judge how hot the board and components are?
You might try leaving a bit of solder somewhere that’s not important, and where no circuits lie… but still near the gpu and cpu in order to gauge when the solder points are hot enough underneath the chips to reflow. Don’t forget to level out the board first!

Do you have to use a heat gun, and where can I get some thermal compound?
Thermal compound is carried by most any computer shop. Radioshack also carries Artic Silver 5, it runs about $10 for a small tube. Don’t use generic products or “thermal grease”. They aren’t as good. Also, for this method a heat gun is essential, and only $20 from Home Depot. Some have used their ovens, but I would never do that myself and I don’t recommend it.

Can I use a hairdryer instead of a heat gun?
The burning point of hair is somewhere around 140°F, so I assume the average hairdryer does not even get that hot. Solder in general will not even begin to soften or melt until about 190°F, and that’s for cheap stuff. Alloys that melt between 180 and 190 °C (360 and 370°F) are the most commonly used. Basically, no.

How do I remove my PS3′s harddrive?
Well, it depends on your model. If you have a PS3 slim, use this method… and if you have a Fat PS3 (the Darth Vader version like mine) use this method instead.

So I hope some of this helps, and drop a comment here if you have any other questions!

Happy Hacking,
Mic-B

Unlocked iPhone APN Data Settings

Could not activate cellular data network: You are not subscribed to a cellular data service error.

Cellular data network error.
Credit: LimitedEditionIphone.Com

Hey guys and gals,
There was a problem I ran into recently with an iPhone where the subscriber had purchased a data package for their SIM card, but was not able to access any data-related features. In a WAP browsing phone, everything seemed to work; but as soon as the SIM was swapped to the unlocked iPhone, the functions were limited to calling and SMS. With WiFi enabled, everything ran great. With a little searching and some deduction, I came across the APN setting for the cellular network.

To the nay-sayers or those who are currently crying foul: unlocking your phone is not illegal. The Copyright Office issued six exemptions to the DMCA last year, one of which allows consumers to unlock their cellphones “for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.” Still with me? Let’s move on.

I suppose I should preface all this by telling you that in Montana, there’s only one certified GSM provider, Cellular One. There’s only one possible connection setting for people in this area unless they have a different service. (see: AT&T, T-Mobile, Worldphones, etc… most providers will kick you off for roaming 60% of the time or more) Also, this is not a workaround for not having a data subscription… it won’t work unless you pay for a data package, as you should. It just so happens to be the same GSM system that the iPhone uses, and it works just like any other smartphone. The company recently purchased and took over Chinook Wireless as well, prompting the cellphone communities to dub them “Chinookular One”. Duly noted… and class dismissed.

Originally, I scoured the free Nokia phone that came with the activated SIM and found an APN address… “wap.cellular1.net”, but as you can tell by the URL, the Nokia phone had been defaulted to run as only a WAP browser. That wasn’t going to do me any good. With that set, safari would pull up some pages, but still throw the error — and e-mail, weather, etc were all down as well. Eventually I stumbled across this pdf for an HTC Touch where Cellular One gives out the data connection address. I came across the correct settings, as detailed below. Super confusing and difficult, I know. Note: This is for iPhone OS 3.0.

Navigate in your iPhone’s system preferences to:
Settings–>General–>Network–>Cellular Data Network

And then type “internet.chinookwireless.net” in the APN field. Leave username and password both blank.

Seems to work great around here! Let me know if you experience any problems… I’d love to document them. If your a subscriber for a different service, have a look through some of their help and setup articles for smartphones as you can easily find this address for any carrier worth it’s salt.
Mic-B

P.S. – A fellow Montanan from Missoula, Evan Lovely, has a great write-up about iPhones in montana, with some more info on MMS settings (the phone I was working with didn’t have this for some reason) and some great comments after the article. Too bad I found this after the fact… could have saved me quite some time.

Check your warranty statuses!

So, after fiddling with the promised “Fix Number Three” — an iPod Classic that would only charge — this week, I determined that although the harddrive was to blame and I could easily replace it; it was still under warranty. Which prompted me to write this, as I’m sure a lot of people don’t think about this when reading my blog posts here: Please, please check your warranty statuses. You could save both of us a lot of time, and yourself a lot of money by running your serial through a little box, or submitting a simple repair request. On average, I find warranties to normally end after one year. Visit the following to find some more information:

Apple
https://selfsolve.apple.com/agreementWarrantyDynamic.do

Sony
https://eservice.sony.com/webrma/web/index.do

Microsoft
http://support.xbox.com/support/en/us/nxe/LiveIDSignIn.aspx?redirectUrl=http://support.xbox.com/support/en/us/nxe/registerdevice.aspx?step=repair

Aside from all of this, I have another fix planned on the software side. I’ll show you all how to set up an unlocked iPhone to correctly use a data connection over a local (or any) GSM provider.

See you tomorrow,
Mic-B

iPod Video 5G Display Replacement

So, a buddy of mine has had this iPod forever… and throughout snowboarding and such, the screen got progressively worse. At first it was a couple of lines, and it got all the way to the point of the first photo… so bad you couldn’t pick a song. To make a long story short, I made my first order from iFixIt (always used their guides, but never ordered from them) and these guys are great! I don’t know how big they are, but they have that small company feel and their salesmen are incredibly knowledgeable. Safe to say I will be purchasing my apple replacement parts through them every time I can. iFixIt kicks serious ass.

The old screen

The old screen.

New screen and tools!

New screen and tools!

iPod Back Case Off!

iPod Back Case Off!

Anyways, on with the fix. I used their iPod Video 5G disassembly guides, which have great hi-res photos and step by step instructions for how to pry open the case without denting it, disconnecting the cables without damaging them, etc. I not only ordered the replacement screen, but a couple of sets of the ipod opening tools — I figured it was worthwhile to stock up. The iPod came up in iTunes with everything seemingly intact… all the music was there and the headphone jack was working, although it was basically a glorified shuffle. So, time to take ‘er apart!

ipod video craked open

Cracked open...

Harddrive Up!

Harddrive Up!

Take the screws out...

Take the screws out...

With the iPod tools, I started at the docking port, worked up the left side and around the top. Once the back case was separated, I had to undo a ribbon cable before the case would flop out book-style. Once the case is open like that, the harddrive will just come up as you see in the shot. Beware of it’s ribbon cable as well — these things are everywhere. Once the battery/headphone cable and harddrive are out, it’s time to take the screws out of the frame.

Taking the frame out...

Taking the frame out...

All the pieces apart...

All the pieces apart...

Unclipping the video cable...

Unclipping the video cable...

Now, the frame is glued in, so this is the part to treat delicately. Once you get that front faceplate off, make sure you keep the center button with the click wheel… or touch wheel or whatever they call that damn thing. This one had seen some use, and didn’t just magically stay together anymore. We need to focus on replacing the screen, however… so unclip it’s ribbon cable safely and slide it right out. At this point it’s almost completely unattached save for that cable, so be extremely careful with it. In reading some forum threads, a few kids thought the screen could just be pulled out at this point, but I will refrain from calling them names. I figured that the old screen would be WAY more destroyed than it was, so this part went without a hitch.

New VS Old Screen

New VS Old Screen

Put the harddisk back in...

Put the harddisk back in...

Ribbon cable back in.

Ribbon cable back in.

After swapping out the old faulty part, the last steps were to reassemble! Put it all back together in reverse order, the 1.8″ PATA drive being the most important (and expensive). The bumpers are not necessarily attached to the drive itself so be aware of their positions when dis- and re-assembling. You don’t want to crack one of those ribbon cables through pressure over time in your pocket or backpack. Srsleh.

Back together...

Back together...

Booting...

Booting...

Aaannd BAM!

Aaannd BAM!

With everything in place and back together, I gave her a quick boot and magically… BAM! New screen works like a charm. I’d say the fix would normally take me maybe 20-30 minutes to do if I didn’t have to shoot photos and stop working every five seconds for the purpose of documentation. I ordered the parts on Friday, so the shipping was fast and cheap and iFixIt is my new go-to place; but you already knew that. This really is an easy fix that most anyone could do, and the replacement screen was only 25 bucks.

Happy Hacking.
Mic-B

Xbox 360 E74 DIY Reflow

Whaddup kids, Mic-B here back with another slick fix. I had one of the many 360′s I’ve fixed from the RRoD come back to me with the dreaded E74 error. I had already previously done the X-Clamp fix on this beast; so voiding the warranty wasn’t a problem — sadly, out the window was sending it to Microsoft as well. I was already in knee deep on this box, so I had to finish it out right.

Be warned… this error *can* be caused by a faulty AV cable; but if you can see the error code on the screen when you turn it on (see the first photo below) then the cable is definitely not to blame. At this point, it’s either a pin of that scaler chip itself that has become unseated or a broken trace between the GPU and the ANA/HANA chip. If you’d like to see the forum thread I gathered information from, you can check that out on xbox-scene.com. There really is a scarce amount of information on this fix at the time of this writing.

In order to make sure that I did it up right, I went out to trusty ol Home Depot and purchased a Ryobi Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer. This thing is cheap, wicked, and I highly recommend it to anyone attempting ANY reflow as it takes all of the guesswork out. Before, when I had to play it safe and would try two or three times on some units, I can now know when the solder has reached its melting point, exactly how hot the board is and whether or not the board is heated evenly, etc… it’s awesome to say the least. Wordemup.

The Damned E74 Error.

The Damned E74 Error.

Top Case Off

Top Case Off

The New Gat.

The New Gat.

So, this fix is pretty straightforward, with a few exceptions. Instead of reflowing from the top, you should hit this one from the bottom. Ensure that you clean off the thermal paste and remove the heat sink from the GPU (the short one — on elites and 2nd edition hardware, this heatsink also has the secondary sink with the copper pipe attached to it) so that your work area is clean. Thermal paste, on average, will melt at about 248F, whereas the solder will start to melt at 423F. If you don’t take that heatsink off and clean the chip you’ll definitely fry it playing games afterward.

A Top Down Shot

A Top Down Shot

Closeup of the ANA/HANA

Closeup of the ANA/HANA

The Reflow Area

The Reflow Area

For where to reflow, check the video below. Ensure that you remove all of the cables (SATA and power for the drive) and the little cushions on the four black chips you see in the photo above. Also, after your done, ensure that you play test your unit extensively because these can slip back into submission much like the PS3s with the YLoD.


Hope this information helps, and if you need some advice, drop me a comment on this article or snag my e-mail from the “About Mic-B” page.

Happy Hacking.
Mic-B

PS3 DIY GPU Reflow / YLoD Fix

So, this was a bit unexpected, but one of my closest friends, …”Chris” we’ll call him, had his PS3 die last Friday. Sadly, I was out of town fixing Xbox 360′s all weekend (see this article) so I didn’t get the messages he left on my office line. He had recently become a victim of the infamous “Yellow Light of Death” or “YLoD”. This was a fix I was quite confident in, considering my past experience and awesomely new tools, so I set off straight away. After all, being one of my closest buddies, I sympathize with the fact that he absolutely loves his PS3. I had to fix it immediately.

I found a great guide in this thread, posted by Gilksy, who also happened to provide these videos on youtube for the same repair. Sadly, the unit he tore apart was a much more original revision of the hardware than the one I was working on, but I still found his guides quite useful. I suggest you read/watch them before you attempt this repair.

The only thing I worried about was the fact that around 20% of PS3′s with the YLoD error are power-supply related, so I couldn’t be sure if it was the graphics chip or not until I dismantled the behemoth. Luckily, my friend had taken it upon himself to open the unit and clean it, thinking that dust had maybe been the culprit, so I didn’t regret opening the unit to look inside. But BEWARE, opening your PS3 will void your warranty, and if you ruin your hardware, I take no responsibility. This article is here purely for education and entertainment purposes only. Do not take apart your console unless you are completely confident in your abilities to perform this repair. There is a greater chance that you will ruin the mainboard or botch some other sub-system by opening the case and poking around than you have of fixing it. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

With all of that malarkey out of the way, let’s get started!

Ready To Rip Open

Ready To Rip Open

Blu-Ray and PSU out...

Blu-Ray and PSU out...

Shields Down, Sir!

Shields Down, Sir!

I took to the unit with my Torx bits first, although it turns out the main screw for getting the top case off is *like* a Torx bit, but with a c-block in the middle. I had much better luck getting it in and out with a smaller sized flat headed screwdriver. With the Blu-Ray drive and the power supply dismantled, I set to removing the fans and heat sinks. Once I cracked the mainboard from the bottom heat shield, I instantly knew the GPU and CPU were to blame — there were scarring marks on the shield, and the thermal paste from the original application had not seated well. Obviously this was a heat-related problem.

One clean, one with paste.

One clean, one untouched.

Obviously never seated properly.

Compound set improperly.

Both procs clean!

Both processors clean!

After everything was torn apart, I set to cleaning the chips. Compared to the iBook G3 fix and the Xbox 360 fix, this was an easy clean. The thermal compound didn’t show the signs of having been burnt or even set (it was still wet!) correctly, and came off easily with 99% isopropyl and cotton swabs. In comparison to the Xbox fix, this literally took no time at all. After everything was immaculately clean, it was time to ready the heat gun. Don’t forget — the board should be removed entirely from the case, and the backup battery (the little watch-style one) should also be removed prior to heating. You don’t want to mess up anything unnecessary. Also, most videos on the internet show heating of the back of the board before moving on to reflow the chips… I don’t condone this, as the board will transfer the heat evenly quite easily, and I wouldn’t move a board I was reflowing unless I was trying to ruin it on purpose. You could seriously mess some stuff up.

Level it out...

Level it out...

Heat it up...

Heat it up...

Fresh Arctic Silver!

Fresh Arctic Silver!

When it came to the heat gun portion of the repair, I took a few notes from my previous iBook G3 repair. After leveling the mainboard both ways and ensuring that everything was clean, I heated up the board slowly. This wasn’t as slow as in the past, maybe 5 minutes while moving in, and focused on the GPU and CPU chips for around 2 minutes apiece before backing the heat off in the same manner. I would say that altogether, it was around 14 minutes for 2 chips, as opposed to the iBook’s 20 minutes for 1 chip. The PS3′s chips are made from a hardened metal (most likely aluminum or steel), while the iBook’s chip was made of silicon. Considerably easier, and many less screws to manage in the case. After the reflow was complete, all that was left was to spread fresh Arctic Silver 5 on the two chips before reassembling it back in it’s enclosure to see if the process had worked.

Shields Reactivated!

Shields Reactivated!

Only the top shield left...

Only the top shield left...

Another Successful Reflow!

Another Successful Reflow!

Once I had everything back together, I moved the unit over to my 40″ Bravia, and lo and behold — yet ANOTHER successful reflow! Apparently I have the luck of the gods, (or the irish or something) because this was relatively easy! Albeit, I have done many, many consoles in the past… so this was nothing new. Please be aware if you have never done anything like this before… you could really mess up some salvageable hardware. In the right hands, things can be fixed. But please don’t assume that just because you’ve seen people do it successfully on the internet that you can do it yourself… you dont want to be this guy. If you bring me your dismantled parts, I’ll probably start laughing… and then end up fixing it anyway, it just seems to be my nature.

After everything was said and done, my friend “Chris” was stoked. No $150 charge, no 3 weeks of waiting, and he gets to keep all the data on his harddrive! After all, who gets a chance to back up their saved games, music, movies and photos after their PS3 dies? The answer is nobody, really!

Have the YLoD? Don’t know anyone who can fix it, but don’t want to send it to Sony? You can snag my e-mail address from the “About Mic-B” page, or post a comment down below. A big thanks to Gilksy, and big ups to anyone who’s done this successfully.

Happy Hacking!
Mic-B


Read the new PS3 FAQ posted on May 3, 2010!

No, seriously. Click this link. Or the one above. Whatever’s cool.

Xbox 360 RRoD DIY Repair… now with more LT Hartly!

Welcome back everybody; hope you had a fabulous weekend. I know I sure did, LT and I repaired a bunch of Xbox 360s with the famed Red Ring of Death. As much as I hate Microsoft’s crappy hardware, I’m glad that we can now fix them easily. For about $20 in parts and a few hours of time you can have your crappy crap machine of crap working like new! We’ve even used this method to “ring-proof” a unit or two — even though my motto is normally “don’t fix what ain’t broken”. But it’s all good. We found this method posted by P!nk Thr3@t on the i-hacked site. She has a list of the hardware you’ll need, but don’t necessarily follow the video to a T… she does her repair on a carpet, which could have adverse effects if you don’t make sure to ground yourself repeatedly. Basically, just use some common sense in a few areas.

Now, this is the time to tell you that this process will void any warranty provided by Microsoft, you *CAN* destroy your Xbox if you aren’t extremely careful (especially while taking off the X-Clamps), and I take no responsibility for you ruining your console by doing this. This is for educational and entertainment purposes only! Don’t ruin your units… If you haven’t done anything like this before, you should *NOT* attempt this. Get your nerdiest friend to do it for you… like I said, LT and I did a few this weekend, with a couple more to do during the week… seems like everyone is having problems these days. Trust me, if your uber-nerd friend can’t fix it for you, he probably knows a dude who can.

OK, now to the tools. If you’ve seen or read the iBook G3 Reflow article, you probably know that I used this nifty little multi-tool with a whole bunch of different heads, considering that individual tools would be expensive. A word to the wise — that little tool will break easily. I went through three in a week — luckily, Home Depot has a great return policy and excellent customer service. However, I’ve opted to use my shiny new Snap-On Electronics Screwdrivers and Electronics Torx Drivers, but that 16-in-1 precision driver will work just as good… it has the right heads… just be careful with it. You don’t want to break your tools with your console still in pieces. You’ll also need some Arctic Silver 5, Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (99% if you can) and a bunch of Cotton Swabs. We went through a good 30 in one repair. Srsleh. With all the setup aside, we got on with the fixin’!

New Tools Out!

New Tools On The Bench!

Disassembling the Xbox

Disassembling the Xbox

When LT Attacks...

When LT Attacks...

First things first, we dove into tearing the case down. If you need help with this, or a link to the instructions, you can catch up through P!nk Thr3@t’s link above. In that second photo, you can plainly see that we just kept the video up on screen and kept pausing it as we went through different steps. When you get to removing the X-Clamps, be extremely careful! You don’t want to damage anything important! With the clamps and heat sinks off, it was time to clean up the OEM’s thermal paste. They really did NOT care about how they applied it — another reason I hate mass-produced PC’s. If you ever have to repair a Mac in the future, check out the precision of how their compound is applied. Seriously a world of difference, IMHO.

Gross Chips

Gross Chips, Yo.

Clean Them Bitches!

Clean Them Chippies!

Nice and Clean!

Nice and Clean!

This part took the longest of the whole repair. We probably spent a good hour and a half cleaning the old thermal compound off of the chips… you want to make sure you have that mirror-like finish on all 3 chips, as well as clean heat sinks. Trust me, you will have an FML moment if you have never done anything like this before. Circular motions work the best for me, but trial and error are the only ways of truly getting your method of choice down. Also, don’t be afraid of having a little extra moisture from the Isopropyl around… it dries fast in open air, and its a solution lots of cats use to clean computer parts, so a few extra drops won’t hurt the chips. With them clean, it was time to break out the Arctic Silver 5 and apply a fresh coat to the fully polished GPU and CPU before adding our new hardware.

Applying Artic Silver

Applying Arctic Silver

New Hardware Installed...

New Hardware Installed...

A Shot From The Back

A Shot From The Back

Now, when you add the new hardware, ensure that the nylon washers are the ones pressed up against board, with the metal washers against the screw heads and the heat sinks. We recommend doing the shorter one first, especially on second-gen hardware. It just made things easier for us overall, but don’t feel like you HAVE to do it that way. You can see in the photos above what was replaced, and how we have them setup. The first time you attach the hardware, you don’t want to tighten things down all the way — just get them “snug”. Make sure that the chips are touching the Arctic Silver on the bottom of the heat sinks. This is considerably easier to do on first generation Xbox boards, as there is less in the way and you can just hold the board at an angle and look. Also, make sure you use a cross pattern to tighten the screws to avoid warping the board. These things are pretty flimsy.

Side Shot of the Hardware

Side shot of new hardware.

Overheating the chips...

Overheating the chips...

RRoD are gone!

No more RRoD!

At this point, we were ready to make the chips reflow themselves. The new hardware we’ve added won’t move at all, so this repair is considerably less risky than the iBook reflow, but don’t think this repair is fool proof! What you need to do is hook up the video cable and power cable to the motherboard, but do NOT hook up the fans! If you want, you can put the motherboard back into the bottom case shield. We found through multiple repairs that the new hardware screws are easier to access, and there is less risk of burning yourself on the heat sinks if you do this outside of it. The dotter board still hooks up the same whether your in that case or not, and the hardware you’ve added will lift all components above your work surface, so it’s all about personal preference. Once you have the cables in, just hit the power on the unit. Sometimes the box will spring to life right away, especially if those solder joints are only semi-broken or worn down. DO NOT LET THIS FOOL YOU! What we’re here to do is re-set the chip, and in this case we can get the board itself to do it for us. If it just pops on right away, it may not be permanent, so don’t think your done and reassemble… you’ll probably just have to tear into it again down the road. We’re here to fix things for good, none of this temporary crap.

If you power the system on (RRoD or not) and it overheats right away, you probably don’t have the heat sinks touching the chips physically. Either that, or your connection isn’t solid enough to transfer heat to the sinks, and the chips will overheat too fast. LT and I found that the average overheat time is somewhere between 5-10 minutes, and fluctuates depending on the room your in… basically, we just shut the windows to kill the breeze and sat around waiting for the overheat error (two red blinking lights) to pop up. Once we hit this point, I set the iTouch timer to 2 minutes, and once that was done we turned the unit off and unplugged it. With the chips and sinks still hot (seriously be careful, you can burn yourself) we turned the board up on its side and tightened down the screws all the way (ensuring we did opposite corners to avoid warping, and to get even pressure)… this process not only cooks the Arctic Silver 5 a little bit, it also reflows the solder underneath the chip and softens the nylon washers for a tight, permanent fit. All in all, once you have the new hardware tight to the board, it’s time to put the unit back together. Yeah, you read that right… YOUR XBOX IS NOW FIXED. Kind of ridiculous, really.

A Better Screenshot

A Better Screenshot

Putting it back together...

Putting it back together...

Xbox is done!

Xbox is done!

So, all in all, good luck to anyone trying this. It’s definitely a fun repair to do, but make sure you set aside a bunch of time to do it. It’s not necessarily technically difficult, it’s just very labor-intensive and time-consuming. If anyone has questions, feel free to post them in the comments. If you’d like to have LT or myself fix your Xbox, you know what to do… just send me an e-mail. It’s available from the “About Mic-B” page.

Happy Hacking!
Mic-B

P.S. — Check out this sweet Red Ring of Death review!


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